Tony Ward’s obsession with sixteen-inch softball began at the age of eighteen when he started playing for the Kings in the Black Olympians League at Madden and Ellis Parks on Chicago’s South Side. They won that league and that lit the fire for Tony to play softball every summer. The Kings later became the Budweiser Kings. For several years, they played at Rosenblum Park at 75th and Jeffrey.
After the Budweiser Kings, Tony joined the legendary Flamingos. They won numerous leagues and tournaments and won the USSSA World Series of Softball in Harvey and the USSSA Nationals in Orland Park, Illinois. He then joined the Safari Tigers and later managed and played for Clique. They won numerous tournaments around the Chicago area.
He later became a pivotal member of the California/Steel Gold team that defeated Lugnuts to win the 2005 ASA “A” Nationals. Prior to winning this title, they won the 2003 Hall of Fame Classic at Grant Park and the 2003 “A” State Championship. Through his work as a track inspector for the CTA, Tony played for the 3rd Rail team which is in an employee league. They have won eight championships in twelve seasons in that league.
While playing for the Safari Tigers, Tony was fortunate enough to be mentored by Claude Rhodes (HOF), a legendary figure in sixteen-inch softball. To honor Claude’s memory, Tony created the Claude Rhodes Tournament and quickly shaped it into a top tournament in the Chicago area. For fifteen years, this tournament has featured many national championship teams. With Tony’s guidance, the Claude Rhodes Tournament has positively impacted sixteen-inch softball.
As a player, Tony mainly played second base but also saw time in the outfield and at third base. In 2000, he was named to the 1st Team at the NSA World Tournament. In 2005, he was named to the 1st Team in the East/West Classic in Indiana. He was a high percentage, over the top hitter who laid balls over the infield with accuracy. As a manager, he compiled a record of 183 victories against 70 losses.
Tony continues to coach softball. He also served as an advisory board member of the SSA and the Super Sunday Softball League. He has two children – Anthony, Jr. and Taylor Ward. He is retired from the Chicago Transit Authority and lives in Willowbrook, IL.